April 1, 2004

Health Department Seeking Community Awareness During Public Health Month

Public health is what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.

The past century has brought major advancements in the health of the American people. People live approximately 30 years longer than they did just 100 years ago. This accomplishment is largely the result of improvement in the ability to influence health through prevention and health promotion.

Twenty-five of those added years are due to public health successes, such as improvement in water and food quality, healthier living and working conditions, increased understanding of diseases and greater awareness about health concerns. The American people poorly understand public health. As a result, the system serving the publics health has fallen into a state of financial neglect. Despite the fact that the major causes of death, illness and injury today are factors such as tobacco, diet, and activity patterns, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual behavior and motor vehicles are best addressed through preventive measures, only one percent of current health expenditures support public health activities.

The country has never needed a stronger public health system as now, said Scotland County Health Department Administrator Margaret Curry. The U.S. faces challenges such as bioterrorism and also the emergence of new diseases such as HIV / AIDS, and the re-emergence of old ones such as tuberculosis. Toxins increasingly pollute our environment. The number of Americans without health insurance has increased greatly.

In the past Public Health was associated with the poor. This is not true according to Curry.

Public health is for everyone and in one way or another it touches everyones lives whether it is the water you drink, the food you eat, the day care you send your children to and much more, Curry stated.

The primary job of the health department is to make sure that health protection; disease prevention and health promotion measures are properly implemented.

The taxes collected in Scotland County for the Health Department last year provided about $13.83 worth of services to each citizen.

This is not much money considering the rising cost of health care, Curry said.

The Health Department funding sources include local taxes, contracts with state, Medicare and Medicaid, private insurance and donations.

Last year the health department provided the following services:

1,267 home nursing visits

1,536 in-office screenings such as blood pressures, blood sugar, cholesterol, special clinics such as skin screenings, eye screenings, TB tests, immunizations and flu shots.

217 people were seen throughout the county at various sites for blood pressure screenings

125 children were seen through the child-screening clinic, which provided developmental tests, lead testing, anemia testing and nutritional and growth education

An average of 93 women and children attended the WIC clinics each month

947 immunizations were given, of which 342 were flu shots

133 certified copies of birth and death certificates were provided

22 restaurant inspections were performed along with 6 school food service inspections; 6 day care inspections; 2 motel inspections

5 private water supply tests were done

11 on-site sewage requests were received

3 rabies analysis were sent to state

1 rabies clinic was conducted with 40 animals vaccinated

85 animal or environmental complaints were received.

Overall the entire health department had some form of contact with approximately 5,044 citizens in the community.

April is Public Health month in Missouri, Curry said. During the month think about how public health has affected you. Go visit your local health department and support it.

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